Review: The Isles of the Gods by Amie Kaufman


Selly’s blood runs with the saltwater of the sea. Therefore, when her father abandons her in the Kirkpool port, she refuses to spend the winter at home while he ventures off to the northern seas. However, her plans to pursue him are thwarted when a charming stranger, marked with the symbols of a magician, seizes control of her vessel in the cover of night. He is Prince Leander of Alinor, and he must cross the Crescent Sea in secrecy to complete a ritual on the sacred Isles of the Gods.

Selly has no interest in accompanying a pampered prince anywhere, nor does she have the patience for his demands or his attractive appearance. Yet, what begins as a relaxing journey will quickly turn into an act of betrayal and sheer terror on the open waters, pushing two nations to the brink of war, bringing two strangers closer than they ever thought possible, and awakening two dangerous gods from their centuries-long slumber.


Five hundred and ONE years ago… 

As soon as I read the opening sentence of this book, I immediately knew it was going to be a wild ride. Given my admiration for her Starbound series and the remarkable works that she co-authored with Jay Kristoff, namely The Illuminae Files and The Aurora Cycle, I expected nothing less and man oh man did Amie Kaufman deliver!

The Isles of The Gods, is set in an exquisitely crafted queer normative fantasy realm which is at the dawn of industrialization, blending the traditional and modern elements beautifully. The narrative is told from several different perspectives, which enhances the depth of the storyline. The writing is eloquent, the plot intricately constructed and fast paced. The interplay among the characters is skillfully depicted, and Amie Kaufman’s trademark humor adds levity throughout the book. Right from the beginning, the story grips your attention with its thrilling and mysterious elements, rendering the book utterly unputdownable. Also being someone who had been sailing since childhood, I appreciated how she discussed the minute intricacies of ships and their mechanics in detail.

“The world’s bigger than you, Selly Walker. Bigger than me. That’s what I’ve been trying to teach you all this time.”

“I’ve been trying to teach you to be a captain, girl, which means taking care of your people before yourself, seeing things through their eyes. It’s why I’ve had you doing every job on the boat, and the worst ones most of all. To learn what you’re asking others to do.”

What caught my attention the most was the author’s portrayal of the enduring correlation between religion and the conflicts fought in its name as well as the ways in which religious organizations and individuals seek to benefit from it despite their varying motives. Furthermore, despite not being a significant element in this young adult novel, I found myself fascinated whenever the characters delved into the realm of politics and its analyzing tactics and strategies. Also the author’s ability to depict the character development through their conversations left a strong impression on me.

The events of the tale unfold after five hundred and ONE years after Macean, the God of Risk, the Gambler, launched an attack to claim his siblings’ territories. His attempt was thwarted, and his sister Barrica, the Warrior, later known as Barrica the Sentinel, defeated him, putting him into a perpetual sleep, which she has vigilantly guarded ever since, with the help of the Royal family of her kingdom, Alinor.

Everyone tells the same story different ways. And the only version we’re the hero of is our own.

Even though the magic systems isn’t exactly novel or unique, it was well thought out. Some children are born with a magical symbol (a green line) on their wrist that will determine their ability to control one or more of the elements – earth, water, air, and fire – as they mature. Typically occurring between the ages of eight and fifteen, the mark will transform into a complex tattoo, showcasing the individual’s aptitude for a specific element or elements. I found it very impressive that the author delved into the intricate details of the magic system, and demonstrated its intricate links to the world, politics, religions, and customs of every kingdom.

Selly is the daughter of a prosperous merchant ship fleet proprietor. Initially, she appears to be impulsive, impatient, and somewhat entitled. Despite her frustration with her father for abandoning her under the care of a ship captain who treats her like a mere deckhand on her own vessel, her discontent is further compounded by her lack of magical ability although born with the magical mark. Nonetheless, following a significant traumatic and heart-wrenching occurrence that takes place at the outset of the narrative, she sheds her immature behavior and come to grips with the seriousness of the circumstances she and her companions are in. Her personal development is portrayed in a magnificent manner.

I reach into the nest of flowers around us, plucking a delicate blossom in Alinor’s royal sapphire blue. He watches me cautiously.

“There.” I lean across to tuck it behind his ear. “Everything useless around here is beautifully decorated. I wouldn’t want you to feel left out.”

Leander is the younger brother of Alinor’s reigning monarch and holds the royal title of prince. At first, he is presented as an irresponsible and carefree individual, preoccupied with his own vanity and sense of self-importance. Although there is significant self growth as the story progress at times there is character regression as he’s prone to self sabotage.

“You asked. And that’s the answer. I flirt with them.”

“I don’t even know why I’m surprised,” she mutters.

“At least it works on someone around here,”

Laskia is the younger sibling of a well-known notorious club owner Ruby in Mallecea, with a history of rags to riches. She is a morally grey queer character who is cunning, and is eager to demonstrate her abilities to others by carving out her own identity, independent of her elder sister’s reputation and she is determined to go to any lengths to accomplish her objectives. She’s the pivotal character in the plot. 

Jude, another queer character is an illegitimate child of a late Alinorish aristocrat, a former schoolmate of Prince Leander but now lives with his mother in Mallecea, where she sought a new beginning following his father’s passing. Despite acknowledging that his status as an illegitimate child limits his prospects for social advancement, Jude still feels let down by Prince Leander, whom he had hoped would come to his aid after his father’s death. To support his ailing mother, he works for Ruby, performing odd jobs.

Keegan, a queer scholar born into Alinorish aristocracy, another former schoolmate of prince Leander is a character who simply was at the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s empathetic, quick on his feet, logical and manages to navigate the characters through tricky situations with minimum risk. Despite feeling that his character did not have a significant impact on the plot or advancement of the story, I developed a strong fondness for him and am eager to see him play a more substantial role in the upcoming installments of the book.

Lord Wollesley,” I chide him. “If you keep your head buried in a book all your life, you’ll miss all the fun.”

“At least I’ve read a book,” he shoots back.

The way in which the romance between Selly and Leander was developed was exquisite. Despite both being stubborn individuals with unwavering beliefs, they were able to catalyze each other’s personal growth and bring out their best selves as the narrative unfolded.

The addition of the plot twist towards the end of the story was an excellent element. While the author had been dropping subtle hints throughout the book, the unexpected reveal managed to catch the reader off-guard and add an extra layer of intrigue to the overall narrative.

All in all, The Isle of The Gods is a remarkable commencement to an outstanding Young Adult fantasy series, featuring a captivating plot, a suspenseful atmosphere, an air of mystery, and an abundance of exhilarating moments. The characters are endearing and relatable, with their humorous antics providing comic relief, and the plot twists leaving the reader on edge, rooting for both the protagonist and the antagonist alike. Saying I am extremely excited for the sequel in this book which hasn’t even been released yet it an understatement. lol!

My sincere thanks to Netgally and Random House Publishing for providing me with this advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.


The Amazing Book Cover

Scroll to Top